UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: March 29, 301 AP.

Utanian men prepare to go to Dignania - Part III

Zeitgeist Magazine reporter Julius Estobar has been selected by the Utanian Armed Forces HQ to join D Platoon of the 16th Company in III Brigade on their trip to Dignania, to report the reaction of the men, and their expectations. This is his third report.

Six thousand soldiers, over one thousand sailors, in two giant troop transports and three escorting warships, the third installment of Utanian Peacekeepers are on their way to Dignania. We set sail from Charleston Naval Base last Thursday morning, and now, seven days later, we have finally caught sight of land: UTFN's coast.

It was yesterday afternoon, seeing the land, like a mirage in the endless ocean. We had been "lost" at sea for five days, since last seeing Guwimith, a large body of dry land. The sailors were used to it, but many of the soldiers, and I couldn't help but feel very nervous at the prospect of lots of water but no land. There have been several cases of men being forced to stay below decks for the remainder of the journey, even some being sedated. Many Utani men, explained the Brigade's chief surgeon, Colonel Dr Henry B'yanki, are not used to the sea, its endlessness - they have only ever seen the land. Kanharan, Tuaman, and B'yantusu men, belonging to tribes that have relied on the seas, are not the men getting as sick.

Still, it was a minority who were gravely ill. The majority, like me, were generally uneasy, but not losing control. Their commanders also assisted by performing regular drills with a view to wearing the men out each day so that they had little time to reflect too much on the situation. There was, however, a large break as the ships crossed the equator. Toilets were flushed in their thousands, or taps left running to see which way the water flowed. While it is a mariner custom to make a "special deal" of the first crossing of the equator, said one sailor, with so many soldiers never having done so, it was unlikely the Naval personnel would try to maintain the tradition.

While the sight of land was welcome, it was also short-lived. Despite appearing quite small on the map, the 200 km wide strait is wide enough to be navigated without seeing land until the Brolecian coast. Fortunately, our naval crew were not so cruel to us all, and stayed within view of land, and secondly, there is an array of small islands that pocket the strait.

Despite the somewhat extreme precautions being taken for the fleet's avoiding all other naval traffic, there was no incidents. Yesterday, as the ships came closer to land, and we approached the busy Rian Strait between the westernmost continents of the new world, the rule had to be relaxed: many ships pass through the strait, and there is several thousand fishing boats that fish there. So, the naval personnel went onto a heightened sense of alertness. It remains unclear to me whom the Admiral fears might attack the convoy, but he said, Utanian ships in foreign waters would always retain a sense of alertness.

The nations that line-up along the strait are all peaceful and stable: Kukuria, Sempervirens, UTFN, Ordland and Kiltanland have all had their share of troubles, but, now, things are peaceful. Perhaps they were fearful of the Theocracy of Ordland, which Utania's government continues to refuse to recognise, a government that is known for acts of terrorism, however, they are also far from the coast. My own reckoning was that the fear was of New Armatirion: Utania has nothing to fear from the world's most populated and stable democracy, yet perhaps the continued fear exists in the minds of the military; afterall the paranoia that inspired the I'ana occupation came from both the nationalists and the military.

There was another explanation offered by one Officer: It was simply a precaution - there were many who would like to see the stability and peace in Dignania fail, and since the peacekeepers were the greatest peacemakers, they could be seen as an enemy easily "picked off" at sea.

After that comforting thought, I began a serious investigation of the evacuation procedures for the transport ships.

Aside from the storm last Tuesday that rocked the ships, made a few men lose their lunch and gave afew more some minor fall-related injuries (all the walls and floors are made of solid steel), the voyage had been without incident, until a few minutes ago, late Thursday afternoon. A local trawler apparently believed it had right of way, and despite radio warnings from the fleet, refused to divert its path. The fleet once tried to divert, only to find the trawler move into the new path as well. It was due to enter the path of the fleet as the fleet passed by - perfect for an ambush.

Yet, no one else was aware of this until the Helicopter Frigate launched its first helicopter which sped away to the ship. Secondly, the fleet tightened, moving the ships closer together, and pushing the frigates forward. While that raised enough curiosity in this author to visit the bridge, the rest of the army personnel were largely unconcerned. That is, until the transport ships slowed to a crawl, while the missile frigate moved forward at great speed to meet the trawler.

The trawler was from Ordland and the Ordlandic coast guard were immediately sent for. Within the hour, the Ordlandic coast guard had boarded the trawler and declared it "secured", and the convoy continued its journey to Dignania.

It was a tense moment, as the trawler was only five kilometres from the convoy, and a single surface to surface missile could have sunk the transport, and killed dozens. I was glad to know the evacuation procedures and the following day, every soldier had a lesson in the same.

While the seas are less rough in the strait, and Dignania is only five days away, this ship cannot get quick enough to land, in my humble opinion.

©UPA, 301 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)